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As the world responds to COVID-19, many schools are transitioning to remote learning and online assessment. We at Turnitin see and commend educators for ensuring that learning is taking place in such circumstances. And we want to support you in this time of need and change.

We are in an unprecedented situation, and educators everywhere are encountering myriad and valid concerns in the wake of the COVID-19 spread. One question is how to uphold academic integrity when students are not physically in a classroom. We want to offer you our suggestions.

Some things will remain similar for higher education, even as course formats change. For example, much of the writing done for essay assignments has traditionally occurred outside the classroom, without proctoring. Thankfully, Feedback Studio supports instructor feedback and unlimited submissions for students to ensure originality. 

But other things are apt to change as instruction pivots. For instructors who try to prevent contract cheating by conducting in-class writing assignments, there may be new challenges in this remote learning landscape. Additionally, with all the research focusing on teacher-student relationships as the central component of ensuring academic integrity, remote learning feels like a challenge to relationship-building. 

So, how can institutions and instructors uphold academic integrity in the realm of remote learning?


  • Make clear the definition and importance of academic integrity. 
  • Make sure to have an academic integrity statement in your syllabus and/or LMS and on each assignment. 
  • Establish a positive relationship with students. Whether you build community through communication via blog posts or through one-on-one tutorials online, make students feel seen. Distance learning can weaken students’ attachment to honor codes and learning objectives. And research has found that when students respect their instructor, they are less likely to cheat (Orosz, Tóth-Király, Böthe, Kusztor, Kovács, & Jánvári 2015).
  • Present students with learning outcomes for each assignment and make your subject matter meaningful. “Cheating,” according to Ann Musgrove, “significantly decreases when students believe that learning has a purpose” (Musgrove).


  • Provide rubrics and grading criteria for each assignment, so students will know exactly how they will be graded. 
  • Use a variety of assessment methods (essays, long answer, short answer, etc.) that require the application of a specific concept.
  • Require students to submit their thesis for pre-approval before student writing.
  • Design assessments that make cheating more difficult. Personalize your assignments. Ensure your questions are specific to your course content, including content from your lectures or class discussions. Possibly have students write personal responses to questions, too. Bottom line: avoid generic questions that can be answered through objective means. (Smith, Duprey, & Mackey 2005)
  • Consider frequent, low-stakes quizzes to measure objective learning to reduce the risk of cheating. While this may result in increased grading, you can employ digital grading software like Gradescope
  • Consider open-book assignments and assessments and ask questions that will ensure your students have a conceptual understanding of principles as opposed to memorization.
  • Prepare a list of possible essay questions or in the case of STEM, short and long answer questions for the exam--and choose a few from the list for the actual exam. Set a time limit for answering each question. (Students with a deep understanding of concepts will be able to answer the questions within the allotted time--whereas students with little or no understanding will need extra time to look up the quote or formula or information before composing a response).


  • The assessments in a comprehensive assessment system create a roadmap for understanding students’ academic and social-emotional behavior (SEB) learning and needs. Educators rely on those data to determine which instructional and intervention next steps are needed to close learning gaps and ensure each unique student succeeds.
  • Help parents and students understand why various assessments are administered and the role they play in supporting the learner. For instance, universal screening, such as the FastBridge assessments offered by Illuminate Education, help identify which students are at-risk in math, reading, or SEB. FastBridge’s reporting targets the specific skill need, so effective support can be aligned right away.
  • Help parents understand the importance that the student be the only one contributing to the assessment. It’s imperative that teachers have authentic data upon which to base instructional decisions, and any “help” that is provided to the student during the assessment may prevent the teacher from identifying the essential next steps in the student’s learning. Essentially, “helping” a child on an assessment prevents a teacher from ultimately helping the child.


  • After an assignment is due or an exam is administered, ask students to post on a discussion board or classroom blog, describing their approach to the assignment, any research used, and a summary of what they learned. 
  • After an essay is turned in, consider requiring students to turn in copies of referenced articles with the cited material, circled.


  • Consider having Zoom or other video conferencing apps open as students take exams. This will provide the added element of proctoring or invisible pressure to ensure academic integrity. 
  • Make known your use of plagiarism detection software, like Turnitin’s suite of tools.
  • Utilize software such as Gradescope to enable digital assessment and feedback.
  • If your online platform allows you to do so, show only one question at a time, which prevents students from copying and pasting questions.

We hope this helps you as you plan your transition to distance learning. 

Want to transform plagiarism into teachable moments? Check out our whitepaper.
Want to provide unbiased assessment? Check out Gradescope.
Want to ensure student's words are their own? Check out Feedback Studio.